Last year the Florida Legislature passed new laws regarding bongs and pythons, yet they failed to do anything about texting while driving. Looks like my dream of opening a store called “Pythons and Bongs” has crashed (and I am not sure what I’m going to do with all these blacklight posters.) All kidding aside, while these may be important laws, Florida needs a restriction on texting while driving.
Florida House Bill 187, the so-called “Bong Bill,” went into effect July 1 and bans the sale of most “smoking devices” by businesses that don’t derive at least 75 percent of their income from tobacco sales or make more than 25 percent from selling the prohibited items. Violators could be sentenced to a year in jail.
This year it also became illegal to own Burmese pythons and several other large, exotic reptiles. Pythons have escaped or been set loose, and that's disturbing Florida's ecology, especially in the Everglades. Senate Bill S. 373 added “constrictor snake of the species Python genera” to the Lacey Act, which prohibits the importation of species determined to be injurious to people, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or wildlife.
One law they did not pass is a ban on texting while driving. Florida remains one of only 12 states without a ban on texting while driving. At the last legislative session, our elected representatives killed SB 448, arguing that the bill was too narrowly focused on texting while driving and needed to cover all driving distractions. This is logic only a politician could use.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than a half-million were injured. Texting while driving is a rapidly rising distraction, especially among teens. AAA and Seventeen magazine released a joint survey on August 2 of almost 2,000 teens that found that 84% know distracted driving increases their crash risk, yet 86% do it anyway.
Now that the legislature has smoking and snakes under control, maybe they will turn their attention to a more pressing issue and ban texting while driving.